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The Secret Adversary: A Tommy and Tuppence Mystery

The Secret Adversary: A Tommy and Tuppence Mystery

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The Secret Adversary: A Tommy and Tuppence Mystery

3/5 (680 évaluations)
313 pages
5 heures
Feb 27, 2017


"Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere.
Pay must be good. No reasonable offer refused."
With that bold declaration, Thomas "Tommy" Beresford and Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley launch their career as sleuths. The childhood chums, newly reunited in London during the lean years after the Great War, are immediately swept up in a series of thrilling escapades as they search for a secret treaty in the hands of a survivor of the shipwrecked Lusitania. Witty banter highlights their tale of adventure, courage, and suspense, populated by a colorful cast ranging from an American millionaire and a British Intelligence agent to a ring of Bolshevist conspirators headed by a criminal mastermind.
Agatha Christie published The Secret Adversary in 1922 after the success of her very first book, TheMysterious Affair at Styles, which introduced Hercule Poirot. With stolid Tommy and lively Tuppence, Christie created a pair of fan favorites to whom she returned throughout her career; the fun-loving duo appear in three other novels and a collection of short stories, and their exploits have been adapted for stage and screen. The beloved characters' debut offers a light-hearted romp that also recaptures the spirit of its age, as postwar England hovered on the brink of monumental change.
Feb 27, 2017

À propos de l'auteur

Agatha Christie is the most widely published author of all time, outsold only by the Bible and Shakespeare. Her books have sold more than a billion copies in English and another billion in a hundred foreign languages. She died in 1976, after a prolific career spanning six decades.

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The Secret Adversary - Agatha Christie


IT was 2 p.m. on the afternoon of May 7, 1915. The Lusitania had been struck by two torpedoes in succession and was sinking rapidly, while the boats were being launched with all possible speed. The women and children were being lined up awaiting their turn. Some still clung desperately to husbands and fathers; others clutched their children closely to their breasts. One girl stood alone, slightly apart from the rest. She was quite young, not more than eighteen. She did not seem afraid, and her grave, steadfast eyes looked straight ahead.

I beg your pardon.

A man’s voice beside her made her start and turn. She had noticed the speaker more than once amongst the first-class passengers. There had been a hint of mystery about him which had appealed to her imagination. He spoke to no one. If anyone spoke to him he was quick to rebuff the overture. Also he had a nervous way of looking over his shoulder with a swift, suspicious glance.

She noticed now that he was greatly agitated. There were beads of perspiration on his brow. He was evidently in a state of overmastering fear. And yet he did not strike her as the kind of man who would be afraid to meet death!

Yes? Her grave eyes met his inquiringly.

He stood looking at her with a kind of desperate irresolution.

It must be! he muttered to himself. Yes—it is the only way. Then aloud he said abruptly: You are an American?


A patriotic one?

The girl flushed.

I guess you’ve no right to ask such a thing! Of course I am!

Don’t be offended. You wouldn’t be if you knew how much there was at stake. But I’ve got to trust some one—and it must be a woman.


Because of ‘women and children first.’ He looked round and lowered his voice. "I’m carrying papers—vitally important papers. They may make all the difference to the Allies in the war. You understand? These papers have got to be saved! They’ve more chance with you than with me. Will you take them?"

The girl held out her hand.

Wait—I must warn you. There may be a risk—if I’ve been followed. I don’t think I have, but one never knows. If so, there will be danger. Have you the nerve to go through with it?

The girl smiled.

I’ll go through with it all right. And I’m real proud to be chosen! What am I to do with them afterwards?

"Watch the newspapers! I’ll advertise in the personal column of the Times, beginning ‘Shipmate.’ At the end of three days if there’s nothing—well, you’ll know I’m down and out. Then take the packet to the American Embassy, and deliver it into the Ambassador’s own hands. Is that clear?"

Quite clear.

Then be ready—I’m going to say good-bye. He took her hand in his. Good-bye. Good luck to you, he said in a louder tone.

Her hand closed on the oilskin packet that had lain in his palm.

The Lusitania settled with a more decided list to starboard. In answer to a quick command, the girl went forward to take her place in the boat.



TOMMY, old thing!

Tuppence, old bean!

The two young people greeted each other affectionately, and momentarily blocked the Dover Street Tube exit in doing so. The adjective old was misleading. Their united ages would certainly not have totalled forty-five.

Not seen you for simply centuries, continued the young man. Where are you off to? Come and chew a bun with me. We’re getting a bit unpopular here—blocking the gangway as it were. Let’s get out of it.

The girl assenting, they started walking down Dover Street towards Piccadilly.

Now then, said Tommy, where shall we go?

The very faint anxiety which underlay his tone did not escape the astute ears of Miss Prudence Cowley, known to her intimate friends for some mysterious reason as Tuppence. She pounced at once.

Tommy, you’re stony!

Not a bit of it, declared Tommy unconvincingly. Rolling in cash.

You always were a shocking liar, said Tuppence severely, though you did once persuade Sister Greenbank that the doctor had ordered you beer as a tonic, but forgotten to write it on the chart. Do you remember?

Tommy chuckled.

I should think I did! Wasn’t the old cat in a rage when she found out? Not that she was a bad sort really, old Mother Greenbank! Good old hospital—demobbed like everything else, I suppose?

Tuppence sighed.

Yes. You too?

Tommy nodded.

Two months ago.

Gratuity? hinted Tuppence.


Oh, Tommy!

No, old thing, not in riotous dissipation. No such luck! The cost of living—ordinary plain, or garden living nowadays is, I assure you, if you do not know——

My dear child, interrupted Tuppence, "there is nothing I do not know about the cost of living. Here we are at Lyons’, and we will each of us pay for our own. That’s it!" And Tuppence led the way upstairs.

The place was full, and they wandered about looking for a table, catching odds and ends of conversation as they did so.

"And—do you know, she sat down and cried when I told her she couldn’t have the flat after all. It was simply a bargain, my dear! Just like the one Mabel Lewis brought from Paris——"

Funny scraps one does overhear, murmured Tommy. I passed two Johnnies in the street to-day talking about some one called Jane Finn. Did you ever hear such a name?

But at that moment two elderly ladies rose and collected parcels, and Tuppence deftly ensconced herself in one of the vacant seats.

Tommy ordered tea and buns. Tuppence ordered tea and buttered toast.

And mind the tea comes in separate teapots, she added severely.

Tommy sat down opposite her. His bared head revealed a shock of exquisitely slicked-back red hair. His face was pleasantly ugly—nondescript, yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a sportsman. His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the end of its tether.

They were an essentially modern-looking couple as they sat there. Tuppence had no claim to beauty, but there was character and charm in the elfin lines of her little face, with its determined chin and large, wide-apart grey eyes that looked mistily out from under straight, black brows. She wore a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair, and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed a pair of uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance presented a valiant attempt at smartness.

The tea came at last, and Tuppence, rousing herself from a fit of meditation, poured it out.

Now then, said Tommy, taking a large bite of bun, let’s get up-to-date. Remember, I haven’t seen you since that time in hospital in 1916.

Very well. Tuppence helped herself liberally to buttered toast. Abridged biography of Miss Prudence Cowley, fifth daughter of Archdeacon Cowley of Little Missendell, Suffolk. Miss Cowley left the delights (and drudgeries) of her home life early in the war and came up to London, where she entered an officers’ hospital. First month: Washed up six hundred and forty-eight plates every day. Second month: Promoted to drying aforesaid plates. Third month: Promoted to peeling potatoes. Fourth month: Promoted to cutting bread and butter. Fifth month: Promoted one floor up to duties of wardmaid with mop and pail. Sixth month: Promoted to waiting at table. Seventh month: Pleasing appearance and nice manners so striking that am promoted to waiting on the Sisters! Eighth month: Slight check in career. Sister Bond ate Sister Westhaven’s egg! Grand row! Wardmaid clearly to blame! Inattention in such important matters cannot be too highly censured. Mop and pail again! How are the mighty fallen! Ninth month: Promoted to sweeping out wards, where I found a friend of my childhood in Lieutenant Thomas Beresford (bow, Tommy!), whom I had not seen for five long years. The meeting was affecting! Tenth month: Reproved by matron for visiting the pictures in company with one of the patients, namely: the aforementioned Lieutenant Thomas Beresford. Eleventh and twelfth months: Parlourmaid duties resumed with entire success. At the end of the year left hospital in a blaze of glory. After that, the talented Miss Cowley drove successively a trade delivery van, a motor-lorry and a general! The last was the pleasantest. He was quite a young general!"

What blighter was that? inquired Tommy. "Perfectly sickening the way those brass hats drove from the War Office to the Savoy, and from the Savoy to the War Office!"

I’ve forgotten his name now, confessed Tuppence. To resume, that was in a way the apex of my career. I next entered a Government office. We had several very enjoyable tea parties. I had intended to become a land girl, a postwoman, and a bus conductress by way of rounding off my career—but the Armistice intervened! I clung to the office with the true limpet touch for many long months, but, alas, I was combed out at last. Since then I’ve been looking for a job. Now then—your turn.

There’s not so much promotion in mine, said Tommy regretfully, and a great deal less variety. I went out to France again, as you know. Then they sent me to Mesopotamia, and I got wounded for the second time, and went into hospital out there. Then I got stuck in Egypt till the Armistice happened, kicked my heels there some time longer, and, as I told you, finally got demobbed. And, for ten long, weary months I’ve been job hunting! There aren’t any jobs! And, if there were, they wouldn’t give ‘em to me. What good am I? What do I know about business? Nothing.

Tuppence nodded gloomily.

What about the colonies? she suggested.

Tommy shook his head.

I shouldn’t like the colonies—and I’m perfectly certain they wouldn’t like me!

Rich relations?

Again Tommy shook his head.

Oh, Tommy, not even a great-aunt?

I’ve got an old uncle who’s more or less rolling, but he’s no good.

Why not?

Wanted to adopt me once. I refused.

I think I remember hearing about it, said Tuppence slowly.

You refused because of your mother——

Tommy flushed.

Yes, it would have been a bit rough on the mater. As you know, I was all she had. Old boy hated her—wanted to get me away from her. Just a bit of spite.

Your mother’s dead, isn’t she? said Tuppence gently.

Tommy nodded.

Tuppence’s large grey eyes looked misty.

You’re a good sort, Tommy. I always knew it.

Rot! said Tommy hastily. Well, that’s my position. I’m just about desperate.

So am I! I’ve hung out as long as I could. I’ve touted round. I’ve answered advertisements. I’ve tried every mortal blessed thing. I’ve screwed and saved and pinched! But it’s no good. I shall have to go home!

Don’t you want to?

Of course I don’t want to! What’s the good of being sentimental? Father’s a dear—I’m awfully fond of him—but you’ve no idea how I worry him! He has that delightful early Victorian view that short skirts and smoking are immoral. You can imagine what a thorn in the flesh I am to him! He just heaved a sigh of relief when the war took me off. You see, there are seven of us at home. It’s awful! All housework and mothers’ meetings! I have always been the changeling. I don’t want to go back, but—oh, Tommy, what else is there to do?

Tommy shook his head sadly. There was a silence, and then Tuppence burst out:

Money, money, money! I think about money morning, noon and night! I dare say it’s mercenary of me, but there it is!

Same here, agreed Tommy with feeling.

I’ve thought over every imaginable way of getting it too, continued Tuppence. There are only three! To be left it, to marry it, or to make it. First is ruled out. I haven’t got any rich elderly relatives. Any relatives I have are in homes for decayed gentlewomen! I always help old ladies over crossings, and pick up parcels for old gentlemen, in case they should turn out to be eccentric millionaires. But not one of them has ever asked me my name—and quite a lot never said ‘Thank you.’

There was a pause.

Of course, resumed Tuppence, marriage is my best chance. I made up my mind to marry money when I was quite young. Any thinking girl would! I’m not sentimental, you know. She paused. Come now, you can’t say I’m sentimental, she added sharply.

Certainly not, agreed Tommy hastily. No one would ever think of sentiment in connection with you.

That’s not very polite, replied Tuppence. But I dare say you mean it all right. Well, there it is! I’m ready and willing—but I never meet any rich men! All the boys I know are about as hard up as I am.

What about the general? inquired Tommy.

I fancy he keeps a bicycle shop in time of peace, explained Tuppence. "No, there it is! Now you could marry a rich girl."

I’m like you. I don’t know any.

"That doesn’t matter. You can always get to know one. Now, if I see a man in a fur coat come out of the Ritz I can’t rush up to him and say: ‘Look here, you’re rich. I’d like to know you.’ "

Do you suggest that I should do that to a similarly garbed female?

Don’t be silly. You tread on her foot, or pick up her handkerchief, or something like that. If she thinks you want to know her she’s flattered, and will manage it for you somehow.

You overrate my manly charms, murmured Tommy.

On the other hand, proceeded Tuppence, "my millionaire would probably run for his life! No—marriage is fraught with difficulties. Remains—to make money!"

We’ve tried that, and failed, Tommy reminded her.

We’ve tried all the orthodox ways, yes. But suppose we try the unorthodox. Tommy, let’s be adventurers!

Certainly, replied Tommy cheerfully. How do we begin?

That’s the difficulty. If we could make ourselves known, people might hire us to commit crimes for them.

Delightful, commented Tommy. Especially coming from a clergyman’s daughter!

The moral guilt, Tuppence pointed out, would be theirs—not mine. You must admit that there’s a difference between stealing a diamond necklace for yourself and being hired to steal it.

There wouldn’t be the least difference if you were caught!

Perhaps not. But I shouldn’t be caught. I’m so clever.

Modesty always was your besetting sin, remarked Tommy.

Don’t rag. Look here, Tommy, shall we really? Shall we form a business partnership?

Form a company for the stealing of diamond necklaces?

That was only an illustration. Let’s have a—what do you call it in book-keeping?

Don’t know. Never did any.

I have—but I always got mixed up, and used to put credit entries on the debit side, and vice versa—so they fired me out. Oh, I know—a joint venture! It struck me as such a romantic phrase to come across in the middle of musty old figures. It’s got an Elizabethan flavour about it—makes one think of galleons and doubloons. A joint venture!

Trading under the name of the Young Adventurers, Ltd.? Is that your idea, Tuppence?

It’s all very well to laugh, but I feel there might be something in it.

How do you propose to get in touch with your would-be employers?

Advertisement, replied Tuppence promptly. Have you got a bit of paper and a pencil? Men usually seem to have. Just like we have hairpins and powder-puffs.

Tommy handed over a rather shabby green notebook, and Tuppence began writing busily.

Shall we begin: ‘Young officer, twice wounded in the war—’

Certainly not.

Oh, very well, my dear boy. But I can assure you that that sort of thing might touch the heart of an elderly spinster, and she might adopt you, and then there would be no need for you to be a young adventurer at all.

I don’t want to be adopted.

I forgot you had a prejudice against it. I was only ragging you! The papers are full up to the brim with that type of thing. Now listen—how’s this? ‘Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good.’ (We might as well make that clear from the start.) Then we might add: ‘No reasonable offer refused’—like flats and furniture.

"I should think any offer we get in answer to that would be a pretty unreasonable one!"

Tommy! You’re a genius! That’s ever so much more chic. ‘No unreasonable offer refused—if pay is good.’ How’s that?

I shouldn’t mention pay again. It looks rather eager.

It couldn’t look as eager as I feel! But perhaps you are right. Now I’ll read it straight through. ‘Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.’ How would that strike you if you read it?

It would strike me as either being a hoax, or else written by a lunatic.

It’s not half so insane as a thing I read this morning beginning ‘Petunia’ and signed ‘Best Boy.’ She tore out the leaf and handed it to Tommy. "There you are. Times, I think. Reply to Box so-and-so. I expect it will be about five shillings. Here’s half a crown for my share."

Tommy was holding the paper thoughtfully. His faced burned a deeper red.

Shall we really try it? he said at last. Shall we, Tuppence? Just for the fun of the thing?

Tommy, you’re a sport! I knew you would be! Let’s drink to success. She poured some cold dregs of tea into the two cups.

Here’s to our joint venture, and may it prosper!

The Young Adventurers, Ltd.! responded Tommy.

They put down the cups and laughed rather uncertainly. Tuppence rose.

I must return to my palatial suite at the hostel.

"Perhaps it is time I strolled round to the Ritz," agreed Tommy with a grin. Where shall we meet? And when?

Twelve o’clock to-morrow. Piccadilly Tube station. Will that suit you?

My time is my own, replied Mr. Beresford magnificently.

So long, then.

Good-bye, old thing.

The two young people went off in opposite directions. Tuppence’s hostel was situated in what was charitably called Southern Belgravia. For reasons of economy she did not take a bus.

She was half-way across St. James’s Park, when a man’s voice behind her made her start.

Excuse me, it said. But may I speak to you for a moment?



TUPPENCE turned sharply, but the words hovering on the tip of her tongue remained unspoken, for the man’s appearance and manner did not bear out her first and most natural assumption. She hesitated. As if he read her thoughts, the man said quickly:

I can assure you I mean no disrespect.

Tuppence believed him. Although she disliked and distrusted him instinctively, she was inclined to acquit him of the particular motive which she had at first attributed to him. She looked him up and down. He was a big man, clean shaven, with a heavy jowl. His eyes were small and cunning, and shifted their glance under her direct gaze.

Well, what is it? she asked.

The man smiled.

I happened to overhear part of your conversation with the young gentleman in Lyons’.

Well—what of it?

Nothing—except that I think I may be of some use to you.

Another inference forced itself into Tuppence’s mind:

You followed me here?

I took that liberty.

And in what way do you think you could be of use to me? The man took a card from his pocket and handed it to her with a bow.

Tuppence took it and scrutinized it carefully. It bore the inscription, Mr. Edward Whittington. Below the name were the words Esthonia Glassware Co., and the address of a city office. Mr. Whittington spoke again:

If you will call upon me to-morrow morning at eleven o’clock, I will lay the details of my proposition before you.

At eleven o’clock? said Tuppence doubtfully.

At eleven o’clock.

Tuppence made up her mind.

Very well. I’ll be there.

Thank you. Good evening.

He raised his hat with a flourish, and walked away. Tuppence remained for some minutes gazing after him. Then she gave a curious movement of her shoulders, rather as a terrier shakes himself.

The adventures have begun, she murmured to herself. What does he want me to do, I wonder? There’s something about you, Mr. Whittington, that I don’t like at all. But, on the other hand, I’m not the least bit afraid of you. And as I’ve said before, and shall doubtless say again, little Tuppence can look after herself, thank you!

And with a short, sharp nod of her head she walked briskly onward. As a result of further meditations, however, she turned aside from the direct route and entered a post office. There she pondered for some moments, a telegraph form in her hand. The thought of a possible five shillings spent unnecessarily spurred her to action, and she decided to risk the waste of ninepence.

Disdaining the spiky pen and thick, black treacle which a beneficent Government had provided, Tuppence drew out Tommy’s pencil which she had retained and wrote rapidly: Don’t put in advertisement. Will explain to-morrow. She addressed it to Tommy at his club, from which in one short month he would have to resign, unless a kindly fortune permitted him to renew his subscription.

It may catch him, she murmured. Anyway, it’s worth trying.

After handing it over the counter she set out briskly for home, stopping at a baker’s to buy three penny-worth of new buns.

Later, in her tiny cubicle at the top of the house she munched buns and reflected on the future. What was the Esthonia Glassware Co., and what earthly need could it have for her services? A pleasurable thrill of excitement made Tuppence tingle. At any rate, the country vicarage had retreated into the background again. The morrow held possibilities.

It was a long time before Tuppence went to sleep that night, and, when at length she did, she dreamed that Mr. Whittington had set her to washing up a pile of Esthonia Glassware, which bore an unaccountable resemblance to hospital plates!

It wanted some five minutes to eleven when Tuppence reached the block of buildings in which the offices of the Esthonia Glassware Co. were situated. To arrive before the time would look over-eager. So Tuppence decided to walk to the end of the street

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680 évaluations / 55 Avis
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  • (4/5)
    My first Agatha Christie book, and what a proper introduction it was!Thoroughly enjoyed this book. A definite page turner with characters to easily love.
  • (4/5)
    The Secret Adversary is cleverly written, with a lot of suspense, but it drags on if you have early figured out whothe mysterious Mr. Brown actually is. It also offers a fairy tale ending with little to suggest a sequel.
  • (4/5)
    This is the second Agatha Christie book I've ever read. And for being first written in 1922 it felt like a book that could have been written today. This is the first book in her Tommy & Tupence series. Tommy & Tupence are two poor english people that want to make money and fast. So they advertise in a local paper stating they're adventurers for hire. Someone overhears there plan and hires them to find a missing girl, who by the way is in care of some very important documents that could really do some damage if they end up in the wrong hands. It's a fun mystery that has some great characters and good twists to the story. It'll have you wondering whodunit yourself.
  • (4/5)
    I've never liked the Tommy and Tuppence books as much as the Poirot and Miss Marple mysteries. I tend to prefer cozy mysteries; all the big, vague political conspiracies in mystery fiction fall a bit flat. I generally dislike Christie's political thrillers (Passenger to Frankfurt is a case in point; didn't even finish it)—so I was surprised at how much I enjoyed The Secret Adversary. It's the suspense, the fun characters, and (let's be honest) the exhilaration of giving oneself up to a less-than-highbrow novel that did it. World War I is over and Tommy Beresford and Tuppence Cowley find themselves out of work and with no prospects. The two friends hit upon a scheme that is sure to pay off, advertising themselves as adventurers willing to undertake any task for appropriate pecuniary remuneration. And suddenly they land in an international intrigue involving a stolen treaty that could start a war, a missing woman, an American millionaire, and a bland, elusive criminal mastermind. It is, in short, rather more than they expected. Christie is much wittier than I remembered, and shows off her knack for humor especially in Tuppence's dialogue. And though she uses stereotypes to quickly delineate her characters, somehow they aren't flat. Or at least, the story is engaging enough that any flatness is well disguised. Okay, it's true that Tommy and Tuppence call themselves the "Young Adventurers" (a bit cutesy), and the plot hinges on several highly unlikely coincidences. As a mystery it really doesn't shine, but that needn't interfere with the sheer fun of the story. And there are certainly creative elements that Christie pulls together to draw the reader in. The mysterious "Mr Brown" is a master villain, and though I did eventually suspect the solution, there were enough red herrings along the way to throw me off the scent for quite awhile.Though The Secret Adversary is no heavyweight in mystery fiction, sometimes a fluffy read is just the thing. Quick moving and fun.
  • (5/5)
    my copy, only a few years old, is falling apart from use
  • (4/5)
    It was a great read. I had narrowed down the identity of the villain to two people but could not determine who it was until the identity was revealed in the end. All the characters were likable as well.
  • (5/5)
    What a great mystery by a great mystery writer. And this is only her second book. I was on the edge of my seat trying to figure out who the guilty party was. If you like Kinsey Milhone, you'll love Tupence (pronounced Twopence).
  • (4/5)
    Synopsis: 'In the Prologue, a man quietly gives important papers to a young American woman, as she is more likely to survive the sinking RMS Lusitania in May 1915.In 1919 London, demobilised soldier Tommy Beresford meets war volunteer Prudence "Tuppence" Cowley. They are both out of work and money. They form "The Young Adventurers, Ltd". Mr Whittington follows Tuppence to offer her work. She uses the alias "Jane Finn", which shocks Whittington. He gives her £50 and then disappears. Curious, they advertise for information regarding Jane Finn.The advertisement yields two replies. The first is from Mr Carter, whom Tommy recognises as a British intelligence leader from his war service; he tells them of Jane Finn aboard the Lusitania when it sank. She received a secret treaty to deliver to the American embassy in London. She survived but no trace has since been found of her or the treaty, the publication of which now would compromise the British government. They agree to work for him, despite his warnings of the dangerous Mr Brown. The second reply is from Julius Hersheimmer, an American multimillionaire and first cousin of Jane Finn, staying at the Ritz Hotel. Intent on finding her, he has already contacted Scotland Yard; Inspector Brown took his only photo of Jane, before a real inspector contacted him. They join forces with Julius, too.'Review: This is the first of the Tommy and Tuppence mysteries and it's a good one.
  • (4/5)
    Not Agatha Christie's best book, but Tommy and Tuppence are very interesting characters. It's a spy thriller rather than a detective story, and it is very suspenseful. I suspected the right person right from the very beginning, something I don't usually do, so I'm proud of myself!
  • (3/5)
    This is different from my usual Agatha Christie fare, I've read plenty of Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple but none of the Tommy and Tuppence which are more spy novels than detective stories. After the war when London had more people than jobs two old friend meet by chance and form a company “Young Adventurers Ltd.” ‘willing to do anything, go anywhere’, and it lands them in all sorts of trouble.

    The action is fast paced with plenty of twists, if you decide to read this remember it was written in 1922 and the expressions and settings are from that time period so some things may seem weird to you. I enjoyed it, the same style that Miss Christie had for mysteries works well with political intrigue.
  • (3/5)
    It's been a long time since I last read Agatha Christie, but I enjoyed this book as much as I did the ones I've read before. It's a fun, fast-paced adventure that is quick and easy to read.
  • (4/5)
    I found this Nadia May narration much enhanced my enjoyment of this first Tommy and Tuppence book. Also, my admiration for Christie's writing is greater with this reread as she managed to keep me guessing even though I thought I remembered the solution. Her red herrings were so plausible I kept second-guessing myself thinking I had mis-remembered it!
  • (4/5)
    *SPOILERS* Let me get this out of the way - I think Mr Brown should have been Julius and not Sir James. The writer, bless her, should not have tried for a last twist in the tale and should have stuck to Julius as the villain. I don't like it much when the super villain as in here, is revealed to be an unimportant character on whom the spotlight is never shined for an adequate time. However I gave this book four stars because despite its faults it delivers a quality pacing rhythm. It's a shame Agatha Christie neglected her less popular characters, instead being bent on milking Poirot dry. These adventuresome spy novels of hers are a delight to read. I had no problem with Tommy and Tuppence, they were fine too. I remember quite a few Christie novels to which I gave 5 stars and they weren't perfect, so I'm sticking to my guns.
  • (4/5)
    A little bit too complicated for poor old me, but the Tuppence protagonist is a dear.
  • (3/5)
    This was the second novel Christie wrote, after her unexpected success with The Mysterious Affair at Styles. In the forward to this book, she said she thought she would try a spy novel instead of a detective story. The novel is set in 1920 – five years after the sinking of the Lusitania, and after the end of The Great War (WW I). Unemployment is high and many young people who had served in some capacity during the war are descending on London to try to find work. Among them are Thomas Beresford (Tommy), who was a soldier in the war, and Miss Prudence Cowley (Tuppence), who was a nurse’s aide in a hospital treating wounded soldiers. The two have been friends since childhood, and come across one another at the train station. Commiserating on their lack of funds and employment they decide to place an ad in the paper offering their services as adventurers. And the story begins …This one has a lot of twists and turns, and the characters include the usual assortment of good guys and bad guys and those we’re not sure of till the end. I was positive I had it figured out about half-way through, and then about three-fourths of the way I began to doubt my choice. A few pages later I was sure, once again, that I had been correct … or maybe not. The story line is very obviously dated, but it wasn’t really written as an historical piece, so Christie doesn’t explain a lot of things that would have been relatively fresh and familiar to her readers when this was published. Today’s reader really needs to keep the time and place in mind to fully enjoy the work. Also, spy novels were not Christie’s strong suit. Delaportia’s narration is pretty good, though she has a large cast of characters to try to differentiate and her “foreign” accents (American, French, Russian) are somewhat laughable. All in all … this is an entertaining read, but doesn’t have the genius of Christie’s detective stories.
  • (4/5)
    What do you do when you are in need of money? You set yourself up as an investigator who will do anything. Then you land yourself in a situation that offers you plenty of reward for you effort, even though you don't know what you are doing. That's the story of two people in need of money following the first world war. An adventurous book with lots happening and very little time spent on describing how wonderful the clouds look. An enjoyable read that gets you in and drags you along.
  • (5/5)
    The plot may be unrealistic, the mystery transparent, and the characters stereotyped, but I love this book. To me, it succeeds perfectly, if unintentionally, at capturing the mood of the post-WWI period, including its ugly underside: poverty, uncertainty, newfound cynicism, xenophobia, and fear of social upheaval. Tommy and Tuppence, two bright young things recently demobbed from WWI activities, meet by chance and sit down to discuss their lives over a cup of tea. Neither have fared well in the post-war world, but that hasn't dimmed Tuppence's sangfroid. Prodded by Tuppence, the two decide to start list themselves as "Young Adventurers, Ltd:" and put a notice in the Times:

    Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.

    And thus their fantastic, enjoyable adventure into the (totally unrealistically portrayed) world of espionage begins.

    I think Tommy and Tuppence make an adorable detective duo: Tommy is the steady, solid, unimaginative one while Tuppence adds spice and verve. I positively adore Tuppence. When you consider some of the other portrayals of women of the time period, the enthusiastic, outspoken Tuppence is fresh and fun.

    However, I think what I really love about the book is how well the narrator's voice captures the atmosphere of the times, and how this mood strongly influences the plot of the story. After fighting "The War to End All Wars", people have come back home to find that all's still not right with the world. They begin to realize that their sacrifices haven't routed out all evils and that the world will never return to the way it was before the War. During the War, the strict class system and gender roles were shaken, and now there is tension between those who see the new world as an opportunity to gain equality and reactionaries who cling to the past. Yet the king-and-country idealism is not yet dead, and the propaganda that drove a nation to war not yet fully disproved. It seems to me that the idealism is breaking up, but many people, including Agatha Christie herself, are still in vociferous denial. The book portrays an uprising of the lower classes as the ultimate evil, engineered by Bad Men (aka non-English) who have evil designs upon the noble upright British hover for spoiler--a classic reactionary perspective and phobia. Agatha Christie has an interesting voice here. She was herself of middle to lower class and was the earner of her family, but she still seeks a return to the status quo of a rigid class system and gender roles, and this nostalgia is tangible in the story.

    The Secret Adversary is a light-hearted and entertaining romp on one level, and on another, a fascinating glimpse of the mood and fears of the postwar era. Altogether, it's a very interesting book, to be contrasted with contemporary works such as Whose Body?(more jaded) and Rilla of Ingleside(depressingly idealistic).
  • (4/5)
    I am a huge fan of Agatha Christie - both Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot but had never read her Tommy and Tuppence series.Even though this series is set back in the earlier part of the 20th century, it was still entertaining and the characters were totally what you expect from Dame Agatha Christie. I am glad that I finally started this classic series and look forward to getting to know these characters as well as Christie's others.
  • (3/5)
    I came close to giving this 4 stars but there are a few things that let me down in the plot. First, the identity of Mr. Brown was obvious from the moment he appears (or maybe it was just that way for me) despite repeated attempts to cast another character for the part. Second, the thrust of the plot is very much a product of its time and seems slightly trivial roughly a century later. Still, it was enjoyable and Agatha Christie here shows all the early signs of what she, at the time, was yet to be... the Queen of Mystery!
  • (4/5)
    Recently, I decided to take a break from Monsieur Poirot and Miss Marple and get acquainted with Agatha Christie’s other beloved creations: Tommy and Tuppence. The Secret Adversary, her first T & T adventure written in 1922, seemed as good a place to start as any.This was my first encounter with the pair, though not with their type. Anyone raised on a diet of “McMillan and Wife,” “Hart to Hart,” “Moonlighting” and the “Thin Man” movies (like I was) will recognize Tommy and Tuppence almost as soon as the first words of repartee have fallen from their lips. I’m not sure how the other T & T novels (which include Partners in Crime, By the Pricking of My Thumbs, and Postern of Fate) stack up, but The Secret Adversary is a breezy romp with spies, double-crossings and perilous derring-do—not to mention cloaks and daggers. It bears small resemblance to Dame Agatha’s classic mystery novels, and leans more toward a screwball movie with snappy dialogue—one that might have starred Cary Grant and Ginger Rogers back in the day.This was only Christie’s second published book, written almost as a whim after the surprising success of The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1920). It’s far from a polished plot—coincidences strain the reader’s incredulity almost to the snapping point—but it certainly zips along with trademark Christie efficiency.The Secret Adversary opens aboard the sinking Lusitania in 1915. On the deck, a man approaches a young girl of about eighteen, and asks her to take a packet of papers since, per “women and children first,” she stands a better chance of surviving the shipwreck than he does. The girl takes the papers and climbs into the lifeboat.Next, we jump to a scene on a busy London street where two old acquaintances, Tommy and Tuppence, run into each other. They haven’t seen each other in several years and each is feeling a bit desperate and penniless in the postwar depression. Agatha’s description of the pair is priceless:(Tommy’s) face was pleasantly ugly—nondescript, yet unmistakably the face of a gentleman and a sportsman. His brown suit was well cut, but perilously near the end of its tether. They were an essentially modern-looking couple as they sat there. Tuppence had no claim to beauty, but there was character and charm in the elfin lines of her little face, with its determined chin and large, wide-apart eyes that looked mistily out from under straight, black brows. She wore a small bright green toque over her black bobbed hair, and her extremely short and rather shabby skirt revealed a pair of uncommonly dainty ankles. Her appearance presented a valiant attempt at smartness.They decide to pool their resources for a bite to eat and over lunch they devise a harebrained money-making scheme: The Young Adventurers, Ltd. They plan to put an ad in the newspaper—“Two young adventurers for hire. Willing to do anything, go anywhere. Pay must be good. No unreasonable offer refused.”Before they can get too far, however, adventures come their way. Tommy and Tuppence attract escapades like a light draws a moth. The plot tangles are too complex for me to explain here—and, besides, I wouldn’t want to rob you of the delicious delights of discovering them for yourself—but in a nutshell, they involve Tommy and Tuppence trying to track down a missing girl by the name of Jane Finn who, the British government believes, is carrying the packet of papers from the Lusitania. The papers contain embarrassing contents for the government and could be used by revolutionaries to stir unrest in the country. Joining T & T in their quest are an American millionaire, Julius P. Hersheimmer, and a distinguished British chap, Sir James Peel Edgerton. Vying against them is the mysterious, but ultra-nefarious “Mr. Brown,” the puppet master of a villainous criminal gang.Tommy and Tuppence get into and out of scrapes with head-spinning frequency. Nearly every chapter sees them either falling into the clutches of Mr. Brown’s men or being rescued by the “good guys.” Agatha keeps the pace spinning even faster as she splits up Tommy and Tuppence early in the book, thus broadening the series of adventures in which they find themselves.Agatha obviously had a lot of fun creating these non-Poirot, non-Marple characters, and the reader definitely reaps the benefits of her enjoyment. Though they’re still in the developmental stages in The Secret Adversary, Tommy and Tuppence show distinct signs of becoming the classic husband-and-wife spy team (yes, I’m giving away the fact that they get married in a later book). One British government official describes them thusly:Outwardly, he’s an ordinary, clean-limbed, rather block-headed young Englishman. Slow in his mental processes. On the other hand, it’s quite impossible to lead him astray through his imagination. He hasn’t got any—so he’s difficult to deceive. He worries things out slowly, and once he’s got hold of anything he doesn’t let go. The little lady’s quite different. More intuition and less common sense. They make a pretty pair working together. Pace and stamina.“Pace and stamina” is an accurate description of the novel’s qualities, too. Yes, the book has some pretty big leaps of logic and jaded readers will find their eyes soon becoming sore from all their rolling at all the heaps and heaps of coincidences; but setting those beginning-writer errors aside, The Secret Adversary can be an enjoyable read. It moves along from page to page with a light touch and nearly every chapter ends with a cliffhanger, which demands that you read “just one more chapter” before turning in for bed. Those who can’t resist will find themselves staying up way past their bedtime.
  • (5/5)
    Though Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple were Agatha Christie’s best-known detectives, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford were perhaps her most dynamic. The only pair of Christie’s detectives to hold equal standing, the two were well matched: While not the cleverest, Tommy kept a tenacious hold on the facts, and was complemented by the more intellectually nimble Tuppence. They are also the only of Christie’s characters to age and change over time--from fresh-faced and full of excitement in The Secret Adversary (1922) to elderly and doddering in Postern of Fate (1973). We’re offering all four novels and the collection of stories (Partners in Crime) that feature the charismatic couple.
  • (3/5)
    More of a spy thriller than a traditional cozy whodunit from Christie, this is the first of the short Tommy and Tuppence series and deals with efforts to recover some diplomatic papers that were lost during WWI and which could cause all sorts of problems for England if they fall into the wrong hands in 1919 (when the story takes place). Not a bad effort, but a major table-setting plot point pushes suspension of disbelief to its limits, and the main red herring here was so obvious that it almost served as an anti-herring. Unless one was willing to believe that the person involved was beyond stupid, which I was not inclined to do.
  • (4/5)
    The first Tommy and Tuppence book. Fun and whimsical.
  • (2/5)
    I imagine that this book would have disappeared from memory had it not been the second Agatha Christie. It would probably have been categorized as a romp, or the equivalent term in the early 1920s, when first published. The story is completely unbelievable and yet it finely captures a moment in time. The men and women who went off to the First World War have returned home, changed, to an England that has also changed. The book captures the dislocation of life at the time and the nervous feeling that England was on the edge of monumental change. There is an overarching sense that the existing class system was under siege and that threats that once lay in foreign countries have now come to the homeland itself. A good read for anyone who wants to understand how much times have changed in the last century but not for some who wants a well-plotted mystery. Indeed the greatest mystery to this reader was the question as to whether Christie thought that any of her readers would be surprised by the various twists and turns of story.
  • (2/5)
    This is the first “Tommy and Tuppence” book written by Christie. My mind wandered too much to really get the gist of the plot. I do know that multiple people went missing at various points throughout the book. Christie's books really vary for me, and it seems audio may not be the way to go (I listened to this one). I know some people love Tommy and Tuppence, but I'm thinking I won't try anymore with these characters. I will likely only read one or two more books by Christie (any that are already on my tbr), but then leave it at that. There have only been a couple by her that really stood out for me.
  • (1/5)
    Quite poor. There are some clues...but all the characters are so feckless and portentous. It's an interesting artifact of its time, 1922. Agatha Christie is staunchly conservative and very anti-communist."Whose Body" by Dorothy Sayers came out just a year later and was a good deal smarter. Of course, it was an actual mystery, not a suspense-cum-mystery novel.
  • (4/5)
    The intrepid young Tommy and his childhood friend known as Tuppence embark on a dangerous journey to find a missing young woman, and trace some important documents. They become involved in a mostly political gang, headed by the unknown and ruthless 'Mr Brown'.... This was Agatha Christie's second published novel, and a thriller more than a mystery. I guessed Mr Brown's identity before I was half-way through, though at first I assumed it was a standard Christie red herring. This made the story all the more tense, although - having finished - I realise it's all somewhat unrealistic. Much of the political discussion went rather over my head, too. However, the main characters are fairly well-rounded, some of the conversation amusing, and the whole an exciting story which I could hardly put down in the final chapters. Recommended if you like light crime fiction from the 1920s.
  • (4/5)
    Tommy & Tuppance were so delightful to watch on PBS Mystery Series.
    Nice book to carry around in my purse for awhile for fill in reading.
    It's Agatha - I Love it !
  • (4/5)
    The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie is the first in her Tommy and Tuppence series that follows this young couple’s adventures. In this book, World War I is over and both Tommy, who has returned from the fighting, and Tuppence, who left her quiet home in a country vicarage and spent the war in various jobs, are finding peace time a little boring. They need to work but as members of the lost generation, they are also looking for something beyond the daily ho-hum life of the upper class. Craving excitement, they decide to set themselves up as paid adventurer’s, willing to take on just about anything, little knowing that their first case will involve international espionage, kidnapping and murder.An altogether fun book to read, the two main characters are delightful, and make excellent foils for each other. If you are a fan of Agatha Christie, I think you would enjoy reading about this young couple as they battle Bolsheviks and revolutionists, and come to realize how important they are to each other.Originally published in 1922, The Secret Adversary is a light, short read, a little dated to be sure, but I enjoyed the concept, timing and setting immensely. High in entertainment value, this is an enjoyable book to curl up with for a few hours and escape to a different time and place.
  • (3/5)
    A bit lighter version of Agatha Christie's mysteries centering on Tommy and Tuppence who advertise themselves as detectives and end up in an adventure they could not have imagined. Good entertainment.